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Garden of Eden

First time God speaks to man
What traditional Christians think

Adam ruined the whole world

The world was perfect before Adam sinned – no pain, no disease, no death. Then Adam wrecked God's paradise by eating forbidden fruit, and ever since the earth has been under God's curse as punishment for that sin.

Everyone is held guilty for Adam's sin

Everyone is a descendant from Adam and has inherited Adam's sin and guilt (known as 'original sin'). Every human being of all times and places is born guilty of that sin.

Everyone (without Jesus) will burn in hell forever

The penalty for Adam's sin is the harshest possible torment, burning in hell forever without being able to die. Everyone will be sent to hell after bodily resurrection and judgment except those who accepted Jesus Christ as Savior.

Big bang in bible
What doubters think

God must not be omnipotent

If one man could thwart God's plan, God cannot be all-wise and all-powerful. It seems like lack of foresight and defective design.

God must not be just

It is certainly not justice to punish people for the offense of another person at another time and place for which they had no part or knowledge, especially those who never even heard of Jesus.

God must not be loving

Burning forever is the worst kind of torture conceivable. It may be loving to offer some people a means of salvation, but it certainly is not loving to withhold knowledge the offer from most people who have ever lived.

Big bang in bible
Barriers to faith

• Was the world perfect before Adam sinned?

• Does everyone inherit Adam's sin and guilt?

• Is sin the cause of death?

• Will all people without Jesus as Savior burn in hell forever?

Big bang in bible
See what the Bible actually says

Man's first encounter with God

The earth had been billions of years in the making. Then God comes! And starts establishing personal relationships with humans!!

He chose one man – Adam – to make the first move from physical life to spiritual life. Man had never encountered God before, and now a whole new quality and dimension was added to human life.

People outside the Garden of Eden lived and died completely unaware of what was happening inside the Garden. As it is even to this day, for reasons we don't understand, God chooses to reveal himself to some people but not to others, mostly a consequence of historical time and geographical place (see 1.6).

When and where

The story of the Garden of Eden – man's first encounter with God – is told in Genesis 2:8 - 3:24.

'The Lord God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and take care of it. And the Lord God commanded the man, 'You are free to eat from any tree in the Garden; but you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for when you eat of it you will surely die.' (Genesis 2:15-17).

The Garden of Eden is both a time and a place.

According to Bible genealogy (see 1.3.3), and general agreement among Bible scholars, the time was approximately 4000 BC.

The Bible says that the Garden of Eden was at or near the headwaters of four named rivers. Even though the names of two of the rivers have changed and are now impossible to identify precisely, it appears that this garden (special place) was in Iraq (formerly Mesopotamia, known as the cradle of civilization) between the Tigris and Euphrates, near the Persian Gulf.

Tap for the story from Genesis 1-3

Doctrinal issues

The story of Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden raises some of the most fundamental and controversial issues of the Christian faith, including age of earth, first human, cause of death, original sin and people burning in hell forever.

For us today, the doctrinal issues devived from the story are more important than details of the story itself.

These issues – and more – are covered in the first four topics of this site, complete with Bible studies which display all relevant Bible passages bearing on each subject, so you can read and decide for yourself what you believe the Bible teaches.

Most Bible studies elsewhere use the fill-in-the-blanks method to affirm whatever theology and wording the author or group leader desires, in order to reinforce what most people in the group already believe and to dispel conflicting interpretations.
Thinkers Bible Studies here use the Socratic method of asking any and all hard questions, gathering important relevant facts, and searching in the Bible for answers that are intellectually honest and align with real life experience.

Some conclusions here may be upsetting to some traditional Christians who have been taught from childhood never to question church doctrines.

This site is not affiliated with any religious group and has no statement of faith to push people into. Each reader here is simply encouraged to study – really study – what the Bible says and to be able to converse intelligently and confidently about spiritual matters with other people.

Doctrine of 'original sin'

What is original sin?

The story of Adam and Eve raises an important theological question: Does God ever hold a person guilty for the sins of another?

How we answer that question here sets the pattern for how we understand sin and eternal life in all parts the Bible.

A majority of Christians – Catholic, Protestant and Orthodox – have been taught that the guilt for Adam's sin has been placed on every human being ... that everyone is born with this original sin ... and that, without salvation through Jesus Christ, everyone will burn in hell forever, all because Adam sinned by eating forbidden fruit.

This is also known as 'inherited sin' or 'transmitted sin.'

None of these terms appear anywhere in the Bible.

THE BIBLE INTERPRETATION ON THIS SITE regarding sin is that everyone has a sin nature but NOT original sin ... we are NOT guilty for Adam's sin ... we are guilty only for our own sins. See 1.4.3 to see how this interpretation comes from deep Bible study.
Trace to Saint Augustine 400 AD
The concept of original sin was originated long after the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ and formation of the early church. The doctrine did not come from Jesus' teachings but rather from the way some theologians began interpreting the words of the Apostle Paul in the 5th chapter of Romans.
The first known mention of this concept was by Irenaeus in the 2nd century. In the 5th century it was popularized by Saint Augustine and gradually became church doctrine. Luther and Calvin retained it in the reformations of the 16th century.
Predestination and purgatory are also doctrines from Saint Augustine not taught by Jesus.
TAP for reasons why people today are able to interpret scripture more accurately than Saint Augustine was able to interpret it sixteen hundred years ago ... and why people come to different conclusions at different times, based on the same original Greek text.
1.1.1 Saint Augustine
The doctrine of original sin is built primarily upon these three verses
'Therefore, just as sin entered the world through one man, and death through sin and in this way death came to all men, because all sinned.' Romans 5:12
'Consequently, just as the result of one trespass was condemnation for all men, so also the result of one act of righteousness was justification that brings life for all men.' Romans 5:12
'For since death came through a man, the resurrection of the dead comes also through a man. For as in Adam all die, so in Christ will all be made alive' (I Corinthians 15:21-22).
That's it!
That's all there is!!
There are 31,102 verses in the Bible, but these are three upon which the doctrine of original sin is built.
Christians talk about original sin as through it is a theme that runs through the Bible. It is not. It is derived from just these three verses.
TAP here for additional verses sometimes used for support, but actually saying something different

Other Bible references used for support

Many people over-reach with these additional 'proof-texts' to support the concept of original sin:

  • 'For since death came through a man, the resurrection of the dead comes also through a man. For as in Adam all die, so in Christ will all be made alive' (I Corinthians 15:21-22). That is the same as what Paul wrote in Romans 5 and what is answered in Deep Bible Study above. That doesn't make a case for inheriting the guilt for Adam's sin or burning forever in hell. Those verses simply say that people die, but through Christ can be resurrected to new life.
  • 'Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity; And in sin did my mother conceive me' (Psalm 51:5). That doesn't make a case for the universal guilt of Adam's sin. The verse simply says that King David was born into a sinful world and that his mother, like everyone, was a sinner.
  • 'Even from birth the wicked go astray; from the womb they are wayward, spreading lies' (Psalm 58:3). That doesn't make a case for the universal guilt of Adam's sin. The verse simply says that people have free will and a sin nature which become evident at a very early age (obviously not at birth because newborn babies don't spread lies).
  • 'Like the rest, we were by nature deserving of wrath' (Ephesians 2:3).  The verse simply says that everyone has a sinful nature (necessary for free will) ... the sinful nature is why everyone sins ... for which everyone deserves punishment. That doesn't make a case for the universal guilt of Adam's sin.

Jesus did not even mention Adam

Jesus did not teach that everyone bears the guilt of Adam's sin and consequently is destined to hell because of it.

There is no record in the Bible of Jesus ever even mentioning Adam's name. If a doctrine as foundational as this were true, certainly Jesus would have said something about it.

Jesus' teaching was all about our own choices and our own sin. He never said we get sin or guilt from another person. The doctrine of original sin didn't come from Jesus but from theologians hundreds of years after Jesus' death and resurrection.

See deep Bible study on original sin

The concept of original sin is derived primarily from a few verses written by the Apostle Paul in the fifth chapter of Romans. TAP to see a deep study of that scripture.

See exactly what
the Bible says
Tap for deep study of Romans 5
finding answer to this question
Does everyone inherit the guilt for Adam's sin?

We have a sin nature

The Bible teaches clearly that we have a sin nature (Romans 7:15-18), but that's not the same as saying we have original sin.

Everyone sins, individually, because of our inherent sin nature ... our propensity to sin ... becoming our own god.

Why do we have a sin nature? Because God gave us free will to obey or disobey. Free will would be meaningless – not free will at all – unless we sometimes exercise it in the wrong way.

Why do we have free will? Because God loves us and desires a reciprocal relationship with humans, his crowning creation, made in his image. Real love is impossible without free will.

These topics, and more, are explored in other sections of this site.

for not believing in original sin
> REASON 1. God said everything is good
'God saw all he had made, and it was very good' (Genesis 1:31). It is blasphemous to say that God didn't know what he was doing, couldn't foresee the future, or that one man could completely foul his master plan.
> REASON 2. Human free will
Responsibility and punishment for personal choices as taught throughout the Bible are meaningless if we are born with maximum guilt and already subject to maximum punishment.
> REASON 3. God is just
It is difficult to conceive of anything more unjust than to condemn billions of people to eternal torment for something they did not do and not to offer a means of salvation known and understood by them.
> REASON 4. God's will
'He [God] is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance' (2 Peter 2:9). Then why would God design life so that everyone is doomed to perish from the moment of birth? And how do we repent for something we did not do or even know about?
> REASON 5. Adam is not our representative
Many Christians argue that Adam was the first person and representative of the human race, and therefore all of his descendants must also bear the guilt for his sin. Actually, Adam was probably not the first human (see 1.3), and nowhere does the Bible say that God appointed him to be head of the human race. Furthermore, nowhere does the bible say that people are individually guilty (even though they may suffer worldly consequences) for the sins of their leader.
> REASON 6. Father's guilt is never inherited
'The son shall not bear the iniquity of the father' (Deuteronomy 24:16). 'The fathers shall not be put to death for the children, neither shall the children be put to death for the fathers' (Ezekiel 18:20). The Bible teaches that people will stand before God at judgment for their own sins, not for sins of their fathers.
> REASON 7. Jesus did not even mention Adam
Sin was the main point of Jesus' ministry, but nowhere in scripture does Jesus teach that our sin nature is the result of Adam eating forbidden fruit. To the contrary, Jesus said, 'If I had not come and spoken to them, they would not be guilty of sin. Now, however, they have no excuse for their sin' (John 15:22-23).
Sin and death
People don't die because of Adam's sin, or even their own sin.
They die – ETERNAL DEATH after judgment and punishment – because death is the default condition for everything in God's creation.
Only one exception: ETERNAL LIFE now offered through Jesus Christ.

Human condition

The human condition, like the condition of everything else in God's creation, is that we eventually die. Death is not a design flaw or mistake. God designed everything to die, a practical requirement for continuous growth and change.

Death before there was sin

There is ample evidence that the cycle of life-and-death was functioning in the world long before 4000 BC, the time the Bible says sin first entered the world 'through' Adam' (not 'because' of Adam;' see 1.4.3 for study of Romans 5). There been death on earth since the beginning of time.

Sin is not cause of death

There was death on earth before sin, so sin cannot be the cause of death (see 1.3).

Most Christians believe that sin is the cause of death because that is what they have always been told, by tradition, not because of their own Bible study.

Romans 5:12, the principle verse quoted for this view, states: '...just as sin entered the world through one man, and death through sin, and in this way death came to all men ...'

The verse does not say that Adam's sin caused death in the world. It simply says that, when Adam sinned – sequence, not cause – death passed (and continues to pass) to all men. Now there is something new and different: death through sin. The verse implies that death was already occurring – see original Hebrew below – but beginning with the first sin, death for humans takes a new path.

Romans 5:12 / Hebrew-to-English

In other words, sin has intervened in the life-and-death process ever since man received and violated the first law from God. Instead of simply dying – like all other creatures in God's creation – man now goes through sin (including resurrection, judgment and punishment) before eternal death.

The good news – the 'gospel' – is that there is one exception. Instead of going through sin to eternal death, an alternate way is going through Jesus to eternal life.

This is explained in detail in the deep study of Romans 5 (see 1.4.3) ... in the study of death before Adam (see 1.3.2) ... and in other sections of this site.

Many say 'spiritual death'

Jesus and the New Testament writers spoke often about 'eternal life.' It is the central theme of the Bible.

To connote the opposite of eternal life, traditional Christians often use the term 'spiritual death,' a term that is an oxymoron to everyone else. It is an invented term, not in the Bible.

'Spiritual death' is usually a polite way of saying burn in hell forever. People who use the term seem to be saying that, after bodily resurrection and judgment, death doesn't really mean death but really means living forever, in torture, unable to die. The language is contrary both to normal usage and to the character of God.

TAP here to see problems with 'spiritual death'

Problems with 'spiritual death' concept

Here are some problems with the common interpretation. Doesn't communicate. Like a slogan.

  • OXYMORON. It doesn't make sense to redefine 'death' to mean 'doesn't die.' The concepts of no existence and burning forever are mutually exclusive.
  • LIFE PRECEDES DEATH. It doesn't make sense to say that a person can have spiritual death without first having spiritual life.
  • COMPREHENSION. Adam could not have comprehended anything other than the ordinary death he observed before he sinned.
  • DEATH IS NOT PUNISHMENT. Birth-aging-death is the natural order of all life, existing before sin, a necessity to make room for new life and improvement. Even stars and planets die, unrelated to decisions about good and evil (see 1.3).
  • PEOPLE WHO NEVER HEARD. There were many millions of people who lived before Adam sinned (see table above). On what basis would they have eternal life in heaven? On what basis would they burn forever in hell? They simply didn't know anything about what God was doing. Who can say with scriptural certainty that they don't just die (end of existence)?

Death means death

Should interpret the words for what they mean.

What does 'die' mean?

God said to Adam: 'You are free to eat from any tree in the garden; but you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for when you eat of it you will surely die.' (Genesis 2:16-17)

How we interpret 'die' in the story of Adam and Eve sets the pattern for how we interpret death and eternal life in other parts of the Bible.

THE INTERPRETATION ON THIS SITE is that 'die' means simply what it says: final end of existence (after physical death, resurrection, judgment and punishment). No body. No consciousness. Nothing. Eternal death. No longer any opportunity for eternal life.

The only exception to eternal death is eternal life, offered through Jesus.

People who don't choose eternal life will die in hell. Not live forever in hell, but die in hell. Duration and severity in hell depends upon each person's sin and judgment. Then eternal death.

This is not what most traditional Christians have been taught, but it becomes clear from careful Bible study. See 3.5.1 for a Bible study showing every passage of scripture that speaks directly about  death and hell.

What about Children? OK, God does something special. What about adult incompetent? Adult never heard. All guilty?
Eternal death is in hell

Bible study on hell and eternity

When people say that everyone inherits the guilt of Adam's sin, it raises questions about how they think people will be punished for his sin.

Most traditional Christians say that people will burn in hell forever if they die without having accepted Jesus Christ as Savior.

Even people who never heard of Jesus? Burn forever?

Most traditional Christians have never done a Bible study to get answers for themselves.

TAP below to see all relevant verses.

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finding answer to this question
Will people burn in hell forever?
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Garden of Eden
  • First encounter with God. The Garden of Eden is the first time and place that man encounters God.
  • First law. God gives his first commandment (law) to man, very clear and simple.
  • First culpable sin. Man commits the first sin for which there is accountability and punishment, a clear violation of God's law, with intent to become like god. There was no guilt before the law.
  • First punishment. Man is punished for his sin by being denied access to eternal life.
  • First marriage. Man and woman are united as one flesh in marriage.
  • First promise. Satan's punishment contained a promise about Jesus, who would come as Savior.
  • First themes. This Eden story introduces the major themes of Christianity, to be understood later from the life and teachings of Jesus.
  • First theology. This story raises controversial issues about basic Christian theology – as the difference between spiritual death and final death, between original sin and sin nature – which can only be resolved by careful study of New Testament scriptures.
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